|Sycamore Gap - one of the most iconic and best Hadrian's Wall views. Read on to find out where it is and how to get here.|
Hadrians Wall: The 'must-see' best bits:
|Looking towards Housesteads Roman Fort - a classic Northumberland view on this Hadrian's Wall walk.|
|Another one of the highlights of this Hadrian's Wall walk. This view gives a real sense of the rugged, rolling Northumbrian landscape that Hadrains Wall covers.|
The best, short Hadrians Wall walk route that takes in the best views
Distance: 3.2 miles (if you get the Hadrian's Wall bus back from Housesteads to Car Park)
Time: 2-3 hours
Difficulty: Medium (a few little hills to climb - suitable for reasonably fit adults and children 7+)
Being 73 miles long and originally stretching from coast-to-coast, it can be a bit daunting for the first time visitor knowing how and where to visit Hadrian's Wall. However, some of the best views of Hadrian's Wall can be seen in a relatively short, slightly hilly, walk of around 3 miles (if you take the frequent bus service back to the car park) - it is this short walk which is covered in more detail below. I've done this walk a number of times now, sometimes with kids (if they can manage 3 miles!) and it's perfect for the tourist visitor who doesn't have much time on their hands (I often recommend it to relatives visiting Northumberland for the first time).
So, in my opinion, the best bit of Hadrian's wall to walk, is from Steel Rigg to Housesteads (see map below), and then you can explore Housteads Roman Fort at the end of the walk. On this route you can have the option of parking at either the Once Brewed Visitor Centre or Steel Rigg Car Park (£4 all day) and then get the Hadrian's Wall bus back from Housesteads (£1.20 single adult fare - runs around every hour). You can do a circular walk if you wish (and maybe take in Vindolanda on the way back) - but obviously this doubles the distance/time.
|A photoshopped image found on the internet (link here) of how high the original Hadrian's Wall was and how Hadrian's Wall must have looked when it was built. Don't get too excited it's only a few feet high now....|
Hadrian's Wall - Very Brief History…
Construction by the Romans began around 122 AD under the instructions of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. It stretches 73 miles across Northern England from the Solway Firth on the West Coast to Wallsend in the East Coast and at the time all land south of the wall was part of the Roman Empire. Apparently the wall originally was around 16-20ft high in many parts (see photoshopped image below), but now not much of it is left in terms of height - being only a few feet high in places.
There is still no agreement on why the wall was built, some believe it was built to keep the "Barbarians" north of the wall at bay (Scotland as a term had not yet existed - these so-called Barbarians were the Picts and the Celts). Some scholars say those north of the border where not much of a threat really and it could be more likely the wall was just built to reflect the power of Rome and how far its Empire stretched.
|The full Hadrian's Wall Route from coast to coast. My walk was only a very short part of this, covering the best, most scenic route, and began at the 'Once Brewed' point on the map above.|
My photos from this Hadrian's Wall walk and the best views
The stretch of Hadrian's Wall covered below is from Steel Rigg to Housesteads. For a walk of about 3 miles I don't think there are many better or more interesting in the whole of the UK. Below are a few photos I took on my walk to give you a glimpse of what to expect and to help you plan your walk (everybody has got to visit Hadrian's Wall at least once!)
|This is where we got on the actual Hadrian's Wall path at Steel Rigg and we head east.|
|The first time we glimpse Hadrian's Wall on this walk, going up East towards Peel Crags. We would now follow a path next to the wall for just under 3 miles.|
|View from the summit of Peel Crags looking back, towards Winshield Crags|
|Walking east along Peel Crags to Milecastle 39|
|Coming down the hill to Milecastle 39|
|First glimpse of Sycamore Gap, one of the best views on Hadrian's Wall.|
Sycamore Gap, Hadrians Wall
One of the most popular, most photographed and best images of Hadrian's Wall is Sycamore Gap, made famous in the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves film. Now most of us know Robin Hood was supposed to be from the Nottingham area, but I guess the director took a bit of creative license and filmed in locations all over the North of England - whilst giving the impression it was all in the same place!
|Perhaps my best photo I took of Sycamore Gap, one of the best views on Hadrian's Wall.|
Where is Sycamore Gap?
Before I had visited Sycamore Gap for the first time I had seen lots of brilliant pictures of the place, but I had no idea where it was on the wall. It was also hard to figure out, even searching the web, exactly where it was - so I hope to shed some light on it's location for anyone else planning a visit!
Sycamore Gap is located just to the east of Milecastle 39 (maybe only 100m or so) - if you look at the map at the top of this page - Milecastle 39 is to the east of Steel Rigg - and to be exact on the map above, Sycamore Gap is actually just above the 'L' on the text 'MILECASTLE 39' - so not far at all from Milecastle 39. The closest place to park to sycamore gap is Steel Rigg car park or Once Brewed Car Park) - and it's about a 15minute walk east from these car park's to sycamore gap.
|Heading up to Highshield crags looking back to Sycamore Gap, Peel Crags and Windshield Crags in the distance|
|Now the walk follows the side of Crag Loch|
|Looking back over Crag loch with Windshield Crags in the far distance|
|The track now goes up beside Hotbank Farm House|
|This was one of the best views of the day on Hadrians Wall and you can see pretty much the entire route the walk has covered so far.|
|An impressive sight - one of best views on this Hadrian's Wall Walk. This photo gives a real sense of the sort of terrain and landscape that Hadrains Wall covers, a monumental feet of human effort!|
|Heading east towards Housesteads with Broomlee Loch now in sight|
|I didn't realise the Pennine Way came this far North, but on this walk we stay on the Hadrian's Wall route|
|Heading towards Housesteads Roman Fort - if you are looking for a classic Hadrian's Wall view and one of the best bits on the Hadrian's wall walk, then this view is it!|
|When you get to the Housesteads section, there is actually a designated path on the wall, and this is where todays walk is coming to an end.|
|Here we are at Housesteads visitor centre, where there is a well preserved Roman Fort to explore if you have the time and also a place to get a bite to eat and a drink. It is from Housesteads where you can also get the bus back west to the car park.|
Getting the bus back. Information on Hadrians Wall Bus (HWD Bus AD122)
|A view of sycamore gap on hadrian's wall from a distance, it's actually from the road that the bus travels along!|
Vindolanda & the Roman Army Museum
If you have more time I would recommend checking out these 2 separate places as there is a lot to see and it lets you find out more about Hadrians Wall. (The distance between the 2 places is a 10/15 minute drive). At the Roman army museum you can watch a 3D film about Hadrian's wall called Edge of Empire, which gives you a taste of what the wall was like in Roman times. The film is on for 20 mins or so and runs every 30mins - view more info here www.vindolanda.com/doorway-articles/edge-of-empire-3d-film
I hope you have found this blog post useful!
I really recommend a walk on this must-see section of the wall - as it offers in my opinion the best of what Hadrian's wall has to offer, and it's one of the best walks in England for that matter so I hope this blog post inspires you to want to visit it.
Thanks for reading! If you have any questions - just post a comment and I'll try and answer.
Blog Post by Stuart Hodgson, 'The Hiking Photographer'